Law enforcement and community officials Monday urged that Orange County begin developing a regional anti-gang strategy that crosses the county’s many municipal boundaries.
In preparation for a countywide summit scheduled for November to address gang violence, Orange County Gang Prevention Alliance members are linking police officers with educators and business leaders with court officials in an attempt to build coalitions that would address the problem.
Officials are establishing a gang hot line that will begin Friday to advise parents and others who fear their loved ones may be gang members or at risk for gang recruitment.
Westminster Police Chief James Cook said the hot line, (800) NOGANGS, will be operated by police and community officials between 4 and 10 p.m. each night. Cook said operators will be available to refer callers to local resources for help, among other things.
“This is the beginning of a very meaningful dialogue,” said Steve Swaim, gang prevention coordinator for the city of Anaheim. “With the dialogue started and an inventory of what different communities are doing, I would hope that the summit would produce a regional plan that includes everybody.”
Swaim, one of about 200 local leaders who attended the Monday alliance meeting in Garden Grove, said that although there are plenty of programs to discourage gang membership, there has been too little emphasis on encouraging family relationships and on helping parents through difficult economic times.
“We’re all doing these wonderful things, but you find that things are getting worse,” Swaim said. “You can have more and more programs, but there has got to be a process of making the children and the family a priority.”
Swaim, sharing his message with other community leaders, said that “when we are able to penetrate the families is when we’ll get a handle on the gang problem.”
In remarks before the group, Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Harriett M. Wieder said the alliance has become “critical to provide the quick, decisive and coordinated response necessary to wipe out gang activity in Orange County before it becomes impossible to penetrate.”
The countywide summit is scheduled for Nov. 30 at the Inn at the Park Hotel in Anaheim.